Afloat by Kevin Murphy






Boating is romancing
Every way you look
Wild and furious
Calm and warm

Dream alone
Hold together
Drift or drive

Sail or cruise
Paddle or pole
Motor or strain

Wind and wave
Current and tide
River and sea

Date
Propose
Practice
Anniversary
Holiday
Nostalgia

Sit and swap
Wobble and splash
Swim and fish

Pop and peanuts
Picnic and pint
Prosecco and pinxtos

No 
Paddle
Pole
Petrol

Laugh or cry
Whisper or shout
Music or peace

Love in a punt
Up the creek
Marooned adrift becalmed

Rescued by helicopter, 
     tidily tidally mooring,
Always something 
     to tell the Grandkids. 

Where is my child? by Patricia Graham

WAR                           
 
Artillery crashes into my space
Lashings of cruelty disturbs my life
The petrified faces of the innocent I see
Will this never end?
 
My world is full of noise,
Men shouting, gun fire booming above my head
Women and children screaming, running
No peace, no calm, hopelessness surrounds me.
 
Where is my child, where is my child?
The sound of despair in my ears
Blood sweating from the brow
I’ve never seen such outpouring of fear
 
How peaceful this land used to be
Shopping, music, laughing, being free!
Now darkness and grey smoke-filled air are the norm
What future can war possibly bring?
 
But, it is twilight I see
Flowers, trees, and buildings tall
Breathing in bomb free fresh air 
Ah, I shall dream of peace, tranquillity
And the enemy shall fall.

Gradient

A study in light, color, and form. Created in studio with a collection of damaged lenses that I’ve acquired over the years. Each is available as a 18×24 inch giclee print on archival paper.

IT by Limi Jones

Every night, I dream of walking through lonely halls, of an old house. 
Every night, IT observes me in those shadowed rooms.
I cannot see IT, but I know IT is there.
At the edges of my consciousness IT flickers.
A Spectral wraith. A phantom hazing. A random strobing.
Headache inducing.
I cannot touch IT.

Yet,
IT, makes me feel the breath of IT's whispers.
The hairs on the back of my arms and neck rise
To the words I do not want to hear.
IT, speaks of things I have said and done.

Insensitive thoughts and actions.
IT, places them visibly, exhibited, and laid bare.
 Monetary gain and fawning of sycophants.
Spewing out every malign, malignant, malicious,
Concept, conjured from my callused heart.
A heart, that was formed and forged in the flames of life.

Every wicked word hurled at me as a child.
Every kick, strike or taunt I have considered.
I greedily fashioned each torment, into weapons of mass destruction,
and threw it back with spite at the world.
I clawed my way up through others to get richer and fatter.
I looked down upon them like they were faecal matter.
I stamped and spat on the world that, 
I took for my own.
I jeered at ones who could not take my cruelty.
I scorned ones who stood in my way.
I despised victims of my abuse, 
As fatalities of existence. 
As worthless wastes of space.
IT cannot touch me!

Yet,
IT made me feel the breath of IT's whispers
The hairs on the back of my arms and neck rise
To the words I do not want to hear.
IT told of things I had said and done.

A friendship long ago, a hug, a kiss. 
A gift, I had given with whole affection, no affectation. 
A place in my heart, stashed away, stowed, and ignored.
Fondness, passion, devotion, compassion, and for a while,
Love had hushed, tenderly brushed the squalls, till chinks of light
Invaded, probing, inquiring, exposing my broken soul. 
Gently love had spoken and had guided the way, 
Out of the fortress labyrinth I had built of
obscenity, filth, self-loathing and spite.
Love had once touched me.

Yet,
IT made me feel the breath of IT's whispers
The hairs on the back of my arms and neck rise
To its words that I know, I must hear.

'I am your life.
Relentlessly, being sliced away, by the microscopic, ticking of time.
Your choices in your existence, describe, outline, and define you.
Excessive greed, self-centred, selfishness in word and deed.
Unkindness, meanness, mockery, and pride.
There is still time to redefine, rectify, repair and redesign.
Change the cards that you hold, seek wisdom, search for better shores.
The choice was and will always be yours.'

Our Ukraine by Andrew Bell

Our Ukraine
A message from Kyiv

So this is war: Crimea taken out
by unmarked Russian troops

and now the main event: shells
hurling bodies, still throbbing,
through the air, towns reduced

to mangled concrete and rust,
scorched flesh and body parts,
half-covered in rubble,

the full horror played out daily
in emergency rooms: rigid bodies
with cracked voices pining for help,

eyes locked in a stare,
which one medic said,
was best unmet, even in a dream.

Yes, this is war: the rolling thunder
of Russian shells; fire answering fire
like chatter, unspooling

and spending itself to fall back
into silence; the perfume
of relationships put on hold

to be recaptured as musings, held
close, like a balm, to smooth over
the pain and the fear.

The atrocities in Mariupol, Bucha
and Irpin, met with fierce denials
and disinformation.


No more war, said those leaders, 
now long gone, before crushing
the tender spirit released

by the Orange uprisings, leaders
who taught us that corruption
was the only way to go,

setting up another round of greed
and hate, fated to come around
again to face another reckoning.

Now, a new leader, honest, defiant 
and media savvy, reaches out
to the world.
 
How will the world respond?
How will the history be written?
Will our voices be heard

when the story is finally told?
Or must we leave it to the politicians
and all those who were never there?

Image "https://www.freepik.com/vectors/ukraine">Ukraine vector created by starline 

My Special Place by Angela Campion

Angela's lyrical response to the trigger Silence   

As a child I spent many happy hours in my special place, In my own company. It was my sanctuary away from the realities of a sick mother, busy father and three brothers. From home it was barely 800 yards away but once over the hill felt like a million miles.
    The border between our home, the family farm and our neighbour’s farm was a brook, a tributary of the river Trove. Just off the lane, a few yards from the bridge that crossed the brook was a small steep sided spinney. This was my playground where I built dens amongst the trees on the higher, more level ground and dams in the brook. Sometimes there was nothing better than just listening to the murmur of the water as it tumbled over my attempts at dam building, or the wind whispering in the trees where I'd built my mansion. The dam would create a pool deep enough to cool my feet on a hot summer day while the den provided shade or shelter on rainy days. 
    Once building work or running repairs were complete I'd wander. Upstream was a fallen tree that forded the brook protecting me from crocodile infested waters one day, became a gymnasts balance beam or cowgirls trusty stead on others. This magical tree just happened to have fallen next to a ford which livestock or farm machinery could cross. It was also shallow enough for me to drive my pony and trap anywhere my imagination wanted to go.
    Hunger would lead me back to the den where lunch would be stored away from hungry bears and wolves. In reality it was more likely to be a harmless squirrel after my apple or packet of crisps with its blue paper twist of salt hidden in its depths.
    Lunch over, I might venture downstream in the open pasture where the black and white Friesians would be quietly grazing, chewing their cuds or venturing to the watering hole nervously watching out for hungry lions and hyenas. 
The ground here was always wet created its own dangers, no deadly creatures lurking just Welly sucking mud. Many a day saw me washing feet, socks and boots in the brook if I'd landed in a hoof hole instead of on a tuft of dry grass. The risk was worth it for this side of the brook pretty flowers grew, delicate lilac milkmaid amongst the tussocks while vibrant, bright shining kingcups flourished at the water's edge as did the tall bulrushes with their velvety flowers while cotton grass swayed in the gentlest of breezes on higher, dry ground. 
    A heron might be standing like a statue, waiting poised to strike should an unlucky minnow, bullhead or frog pass by. A flash of blue catching my eye would be the only evidence of a kingfisher, flying upstream like a jet, looking for its next target. The more sedate snipe with its long thin beak could be seen probing for tasty morsels in the boot sucking mire, so long as I was very quiet and still. Like most things everything seemed brighter in the sunshine, none more so than this drab brown bird. When the sun caught its back, it displayed the most wonderful markings in every shade of brown from gold to bronze. All these amazing things for me to see but none where as magical as the lapwings. The acrobats of the sky, dipping, swooping, wheeling and turning, changing colour with every movement. From black to white then the most dazzling greens while continually calling peewit, peewit. Hence, it's other names, green plover and peewit. As if it wasn't beautiful enough when on the ground it also revealed a magnificent crest. 
    If peckish, I'd pull reeds from the water's edge, remove the outer leaves, wash off any mud and nibble on the sweet, tender inner shoots.
    Back in the spinney I'd be entertained by blackbirds and thrushes rustling in the undergrowth or by tiny wrens hiding in brambles out-singing any competitors while a robin would sit so close singing so quietly that I'm sure I was the only being able to hear it. At the water's edge wagtails, mainly pied but occasionally grey, would be bobbing. Bobbing their heads, knees and tails while darting along the ground or in the air hunting out unfortunate insects as they too searched for food. 
Almost to the minute, without fail, at three in the afternoon I watched fascinated as the cows, one by one, followed each other in single file, unbidden, to the milking parlour. It wouldn't be unusual to find me following to watch them queuing to taking it in turns to be relieved of their produce. The rhythmical sound of t tch, t tch as every last drop of precious milk was gentle squeezed from each distended udder was mesmerising. 
    Not every day was a perfect summer's day but no amount of wind, rain or fog could put a damper on my adventures, in fact it could add to the excitement. Giant leaves became umbrellas  as I pushed through the Amazon jungle keeping a look out for deadly tree dwelling snakes. My dam would be enhanced to create Niagara falls in the swelling waters that came after a rain. Maybe I'd just take shelter in my caveman’s den and watch nature take its course as I tried to light a fire with damp matches and damp wood to keep the wolves and bears at bay.
The walk home was reluctantly made when hunger said it was time to go. With one final task to perform, I'd climb down the steepest, shadiest bank on the far side of the bridge to where the tenderest, pepperyist watercress grew. The perfect accompaniment for Marmite sandwiches. 
    It was never silent, for if the birds weren't singing or the wind whispering in the trees and the cows weren't chewing their cuds or raindrops falling, there was always the sound of the brook merrily following its course to the Tove.
    The only silence was in my mind a quietness of the soul where everyday worries were forgotten as my imagination ran wild. 
             

Silent in the Hurt by Patricia Graham

Silent in the Hurt

I spoilt your dream, so long it had lasted,
And from a distance you said you loved me.
I had your dream in the palm of my hand,
But I went and lost it when I said, I love you, too closely
.

You found the responsibility too hard to take
And now I find I’ve lost you, along with your dream.
I am deeply sad for the way that you feel
And I want to comfort you, even though you aren’t mine.

You’re someone I want to love and protect,
So difficult to be only a friend,
But, wanting to be so much more.

I screamed, but no sound emitted,
I remained silent, the silence was deafening
My heart cried out to be loved,
but there was no one there.

On Writing – POV Point Of View

POV Point Of View by Kevin Murphy, with a challenge.

I should think I learnt about Point of View at school.

Only since 2012 have I been reading particularly in order to improve my writing. That is after I had written my first novel – I just wrote it from the hip – straight out, as a fantasy of my own, so in the first person. It is in the form of Journals two years apart. In the end, I decided to intertwine the two to show what ‘I’ learnt from the first year’s experience. This all came naturally – I knew what I wanted to write and also the time line. It had no flashbacks in the writing … I fabricated the sense of flashback by intertwining the second year after all was written – forward and back in time. It was an enjoyable process and a most satisfying feeling to have sat down and simply written a book.

I wrote it in the first person and only had my own thought s and observations to go on. But I am not omniscient, so that book is flawed. I now know better from having read and watched how stories are told.
I decided to write a crime mystery for my second novel. I have a favourite model – Case Histories by Kate Atkinson – and wanted to avoid as many clichés like the start with Police arrival at a crime scene, but to have a good deal of story before the arrival.

Page 69 became ‘magical’.

For this, I decided to adopt the third person POV so used pronouns SHE/HE, HER/HIS, THEIR /THEIRS, and IT of course, as in ‘it bit me’. I also wanted to tell the reader how characters felt, so the narrator must be like a god – all-knowing – and have full access to all the thoughts and experiences of all the characters in the story. I understood that this is using the third person Omniscient.
However, because it is a mystery, and the reader must be allowed to make up their own mind from clues, the narrator does not tell the reader everything.

I did not intend to write my next book, I wanted to find out what in the end I had to research myself – I had to write the book I needed in order to tell the experiences people had of the WW2 POW camp system. As an aspiring creative writer, I needed to do this in an original way, but I am still telling a history. So I had one character writing in the first person what he found out from others – so other people’s own stories – as he found it on a timeline, with some recall of memories of his own.

The book I wanted to write next is my magnum opus, the great work I have wanted to write for forty years. It is a fictionalised story of my love life, or an autobiographical novel. But wanting to be original, I also needed an original POV. I chose to have an observer, Liam, writing about my experiences, and connecting them with his own. I tell some of my story to him as Tack in an exchange of emails. Liam has a life of his own, which, though his relationship with Tack ended just a year after they left school together, until the first email arrived decades later. So I have three different points of view: Liam’s first person; Liam and Tack have second person memories of each other so can say second person – you; both write their own first person; each writes of the other as him.

It is a rite of passage novel and I have studied that genre and seen a number of films and series. They are told from every point of view including Omniscient. I read a very recently successful author’s three books as they seemed to be telling rites of passage.

Now I am only a short way into the third and am shocked enough by the way she has decided to use her POV, that I am sharing this with you.

I read the opening and some clunking which demonstrate just how even such a great writer can struggle.
Third person POV is historically the most popular, second is the least, and variations and mixtures are being attempted by original literary aspirants. There is a another form of third person besides omniscient and it is less popular. I think because in its purest form it is the most difficult: the narrator knows nothing of what s/he is telling except what happens – it is totally objective – almost. It is called Third Person limited.

In this latest of the three books, the narrator observes situations and in the ‘show don’t tell’ rule, she calls the characters ‘the man’ or ‘the woman’ until she narrates how she and we find out what they called – during introductions and comments. Initially I found reading this was difficult, it was strange to me. It had even made me question my belief that she is the rightfully critically acclaimed literary figure, revealed in her academic background, and the very clever first two books. I loved them and they have already been made into TV series.

Therefore, I offer you a general writing challenge – to write a same short piece in different voices – this can be done with even a pure description piece. Try it – for fun and for literary impact. And when you start a new piece, make a conscious decision what point of view you will tell it from.

Here is a mnemonic to help you

 POV         POINT OF VIEW            PRONOUNS

You can determine the point of view of a story by the pronouns
the narrator uses to describe the central character(s).

I, ME, MY         YOU, YOUR             SHE/HE, HER/HIS, THEIR /THEIRS          

First Person         Second                                           Third                                           

                                                        Omniscient: Knows all inc thoughts

                                                                                      or            

                                                Objective –  Knows only what is happening

From the POV of this essay, you don’t need to know who the writer I refer to is, but you may like to know that it is Sally Rooney.

My own published books can be explored by Googling Kevan Pooler – my pen name

SMALL MINDED MEN by Barrie Purnell

SMALL MINDED MEN

The world is full of small minded men
Drifting on waves of unawareness,
Suffocated by feelings of unfairness,
Navigating by the compass of their friends.

The world is full of small hearted men
Never feeling the grand affair’s passion,
Or the ordinary heartbreak’s satisfaction,
Untouched by the poet’s insightful pen.

The world is full of small thinking men
Seeing the world from a singular position,
Paralysed by doubt and indecision
When confronted by more than one event.

The world is full of small souled men
Waiting for their god, like the prophet said,
To exorcise the devils in their head,
Dying many times before their last amen.

The world is full of small spirited men
Unconcerned by all of life’s mystery,
Or by the lessons of their own history,
Living their lives only in the present tense.

The world is full of small minded men
Living only within their own horizon,
Unencumbered by the gift of vision,
Content to live their yesterdays again.

CONTACT by David R Graham.

David’s response to the trigger ‘contact’ – like Michael’s it has inspired a science fiction story.

‘Contact! Bearing 119SE. Dead astern. Speed…87 knots increasing…92 knots. Range…1007 yards closing!’

97 knots! That’s torpedo speed!

‘Confirm bearing, speed, and range!’

‘Bearing 119◦SE. Speed…104 knots increasing! Range…846 yards closing!’

104 knots! What the hell is that?

‘Deploy TCM’s!’

‘Aye aye! Deploying TCM’s 

‘Steer course 90E!

‘Increase speed to 35 knots!’

‘Aye aye! Steering course 90E!’

‘Aye aye! Increasing speed to 35 knots!’

‘TCM’s deployed!’

‘Confirm contact bearing, speed, and range!’

‘Contact bearing 90E! Speed…158 knots increasing! Range 387 yards closing!’

It’s following us!

‘Confirm contact speed!’

dennisflarsen at pixabay

‘Contact speed 176 yards closing!’

‘Steer course 60E! All ahead full!’

‘Confirm contact bearing, speed, and range!’

‘Aye aye! All ahead full!’

‘Contact bearing 60E! Speed 173 knots! Range 88 yards closing!’

That’s not possible!

‘Deploy stern decoys!’

‘Aye aye. Deploying stern decoys!’

‘Confirm contact bearing, speed, and range!’

‘Decoys deployed!’

‘Contact bearing 60◦E! Maintaining course! Speed 189 knots! Range 44 yards closing!’

I89 knots! What the hell is that?

‘Action stations!’

‘Aye aye! Action stations!’

‘Dive to 100 feet!’

‘Brace for impact!’

‘Aye aye! Diving to 100 feet!’

‘Aye aye! Bracing for impact!’

The noise grew in its intensity.

I had not heard the like of it before.

It did not conform to any vessel signature I recognised.

It enveloped the boat—swamped it.

Reverberated through the hull and into my bones.

It moved rapidly from the stern, leaving darkness in its wake.

It could not be a torpedo.

If it were, we would be dead.

Lights and power failed in the wake of the noise. I was enveloped in total darkness. I raised my hands off the chart table and brought them to my face. I could not see them. I lowered my hand to the table. But I could not feel it. I felt for it but could not find it.

‘Confirm contact bearing, speed, and range,’ I said into the cloying darkness.

There was no response.

‘Sonar. Confirm contact bearing, speed, and range.’

There was no response.

I was enveloped in silence. It was absolute. I could not hear myself breathing.

‘Chief of the Watch. Report.’

There was no response.

Unsettled, self-consciously, I called out. ‘Is there anyone here?’

I could not hear my voice. I heard my words, in my head. But I did not feel them vibrate my vocal cords or my jawbone. I tried again.

‘Helmsman. Confirm course and heading.’

There was no response.

I did not feel my words in my throat or face.

I tried again.

I spoke. But I did not feel my words.

I moved my thighs against the edge of the chart table to confirm my position in the Control Room.

My thighs met with no resistance.

I stepped forward, slowly.

There was nothing in my way.

I kept moving.

Nothing impeded my way. I realised that I could not feel the floor beneath my feet.

I tapped with my foot. There was no sound or feel of impact.

I bounced, carefully, on my toes. There was nothing beneath me.

I was suspended in absolute empty darkness.

Was I dead?

Did a torpedo destroy the boat?

Is this what being dead is like. An empty blackness?

Or am I asleep in my cabin?

That must be it.

I am asleep.

If I wait, my alarm will go off, and the bulkhead light will come on.

That’s all I have to do. Wait until I wake up.

‘Ma! Someone’s at the door!’

‘Okay Don’t shift yourself. I’ll just stop getting your dinner and see who it is.’

‘Beth.’

‘Patrick.’

‘Can I come in?’

‘Yes, of course. Can I get you anything? Coffee?’

‘Coffee would be good, thanks.’

‘You haven’t brought us good news…have you.’

‘I’m sorry, Beth. I really am. If it was up to me, I…’

‘You’re calling off the search…’

‘Not totally, no…Beth. We’ve been combing that ocean floor with ROV’s for the best part of a year, and we haven’t found a single trace of the Catfish. The search will be extended beyond their last location. We won’t stop looking, Beth, but we…’

‘It’s Ok, Patrick. I understand. We’re slowly coming to terms with our…I had a bad feeling, Patrick, when Tom left…I think I knew…you know.’

‘Yes, I think I do, Beth.’

All I have to do is hold it together.

The alarm will go off and the bulkhead light will come on.

I will wake up from this black nightmare.

I just have to hold it together until the light comes on.

I just have to wait.

End.

Contact by Michael Keeble

Mike’s response to the trigger ‘contact’ – an intriguing opening to a possible future for humanity?

Contact

The atmosphere in Mission Control was tense.  This mission was the result of many years of work to fulfill an ambition to find a habitable planet.  Earlier missions had established that the planet had an atmosphere and there was evidence that it may have had water.  This was the first mission to actually land on the planet and make detailed explorations of the surface.  The craft was equipped with sophisticated equipment for analysing any material collected by the robotic rovers, flying drones and excavators. 

The craft was making its final approach and, so far, all the systems appeared to be working well.  Despite the tension in the room, the operators worked with a quiet and ordered efficiency as they plotted the rotation of the craft to position itself over the landing site. 

The controllers had chosen an area on one of the vast plateaus that made up most of the surface of the planet, but within a reasonable distance of one of the larger prominences.  This was considered the safest place in terms of landing stability and an easy site for launching the robots.  The rovers had the notional range to reach the nearest prominence and take samples and transmit images.  None of the technicians at Mission headquarters would be around to see the collection when it arrived, such was the distance and time that the craft would take to return with the actual samples.  Nonetheless, they were excited to see the results that were to be transmitted from so far away.

The craft rotated perfectly and began its descent, controlling its speed through the atmosphere of the planet by firing retro thrusters.  It seemed that everyone in Mission Control was holding their breath watching the craft sink the final distance towards the planet and with a last hard burst of its thrusters settle gently on to the surface of the planet.  There was an audible collective sigh from the operators as they relaxed and went through their final checks, then turning to each other, they let out a cry of triumph.  They had done what they had set out to do; they had landed the craft.  Now it was the job of the planetary scientists to find and analyse the material which would be beamed down.

Things moved slowly now.  Not only did it take a while for the data to arrive at the home planet, but it also took a while for the robots to be deployed.  The first images from the craft showed a flat plain stretching for nearly as far as the powerful imagers could see and in one direction in the far distance a raised area which must be the nearest prominence.  The only things moving were pieces of the surface which appeared to be disturbed by the strong winds blowing across the surface.  The surface of the plateau itself appeared to be multicoloured material of an indeterminate kind. 

The drones were sent up to view the prominence and the rovers sent after them to gather material from places considered worthwhile.  Meanwhile, the excavator drilled into the surface of the plateau for samples for analysis.  It drilled three cores.  One near the surface, one below that, and one still deeper just below that.  These three cores were brought back to the craft for analysis.

Although these actions were taking place a long time before they were viewed by the technicians at home, they appeared to them as if in real time.  This time it was the turn of the planetary scientists to feel the tension as they waited for the analysis of the samples.  Firstly they studied the images that the craft sent down.  These were inconclusive.  The material appeared to be multicoloured and of a strange consistency as if it were an amalgam of different objects, but nothing much could be discerned from these images.  The chemical analyses seemed to take a lifetime.

Finally the analysis began to come through.  The material taken from the shallowest core was some sort of polymer and was indeed an amalgam of pieces pressed together to form a single solid crust.  This would need further analysis before any conclusion could be reached.  The analysis of the medium depth core came up with the same initial information.  It was the analysis of the deepest core that provided the planetary scientists with the news they had been hoping for; a liquid made up of Hydrogen and Oxygen atoms along with other elements.  They had discovered water!

A cheer went up from the scientists.  A planet with water!  Could there have been life?  Was there life still?  They discussed this excitedly together as one junior scientist continued to study an image sent back from the craft.  The analyser on board the craft had broken up the deep core and the junior scientist was closely studying one of the pieces of the polymer.  The image appeared to have uniform markings on it that seemed unlikely to have been made naturally.  He called over one of his senior colleagues who, having seen what his junior had seen, asked that the image be transmitted to the big screen.  There, for all to see was incontrovertible evidence that intelligent life had once existed on this planet.  Marked on the piece of clear polymer was the following image…